KABUL, Afghanistan — Photographer James Lee and I made the move yesterday from Camp Leatherneck to Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. That means the end of our trip is nearing — but there’s still plenty left to discuss about it.
Take Taliban funerals, for example. In a long-form story Marine Corps Times posted online on Sunday, 1st Lt. Brandon Remington shared with me a surprising development between the Afghan Uniformed Police unit he and his Marines train and the local Taliban in Kajaki.
From the story:
KAJAKI, Afghanistan — It was an eerie mission: The Afghan police wanted to crash a Taliban funeral, and they needed Marines to help.
The Afghan Uniformed Police made the decision after learning that two insurgents had been killed by a Hellfire missile strike two days earlier while planting an improvised explosive device. A team of AUP and Marine advisers made their way April 14 to a small Taliban-held village here in Kajaki, and the police summoned tribal elders to speak with Zahir Jan, the AUP’s assistant district commissioner, Marine officials said.
Marines with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., cordoned off the area to provide security, and the police leader told the grieving elders that emplacing IEDs wasn’t a legitimate way to practice jihad, the holy war against those who don’t follow Islam. Zahir, who fought the Soviet army as a member of the mujahedeen, stressed that the Marines were assisting Afghan police and doing no harm, said 1st Lt. Brandon Remington, a Marine adviser who sat alongside him. The elders offered tea to the No. 2 policeman in Kajaki district, but he declined and suggested it might be poisoned, the lieutenant said.
“It was a bold move because no one ever goes there,” said Remington, the officer in charge of 1/8’s Police Adviser Team 1. “Right there you feel safe, but when you get 100 meters away, it’s ‘game on’ again.”
The meeting clearly caught Remington off guard. It occurred last month while we were embedded with another part of 1/8, his battalion. When we returned to Forward Operating Base Zeebrugge, he found us, shared his story and expressed amazement at what he had witnessed.
“That only happens,” he said, “in a counterinsurgency environment.”